NARA — A legal loophole has prefectural police scrambling in their effort to rack up an additional charge of unlawful use of a weapon in the murder here of former prime minister Shinzo Abe in early July.
Although JApan tightly regulates the manufacture and possession of firearms, the Swords and Guns Control Act contains no provision for the use of a homemade weapon in a murder.
The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, 42, was apprehended at the scene with a homemade weapon immediately after Abe was shot on July 8 while delivering a campaign speech.
Yamagami made the gun by gluing two metal tubes to a strip of wood. It was designed to simultaneously fire six bullets of 1 centimeter in diameter.
Tests conducted on the weapon at the National Institute for Police Science Research attested to the weapon’s lethal velocity when bullets pierced wooden targets, investigative sources said.
Although Yamagami has been charged with murder, police are also investigating whether he should face an additional charge of violating the firearms law by discharging a firearm in public.
The law prohibits the possession of seven types of firearms. It also contains a provision prohibiting the use of four types of firearms in public. The penalty for firing the weapon is heavier than for simple possession.
But until July, there had never been a case in Japan of a homemade weapon being used in public and killing someone, the investigative sources said.
Although homemade weapons are not defined as firearms in the possession and use categories, experts said the weapon made by Yamagami could be considered either a pistol or a firearm, both covered by the disposition on the shooting.
However, Mitsuru Fukuda, a risk management professor at Nihon University who is familiar with crimes involving the use of firearms, disputed this view.
Based on the structure and function of Yamagami’s weapon, he claimed that it could only be considered in the category of “other loaded weapons” not covered by the firing provision.
Fukuda called for discussions to be opened on changing the law to cover homemade weapons.